Friday, December 3, 2010

Foot Travel Only: Hiking, Backpacking, and Trail Running near Dahlonega

The following is a part of a series on "Everything You Ever Needed to Know about Dahlonega's Outdoor Sports."

The Benton MacKaye
The Benton MacKaye Trail
The opportunities for hiking, backpacking, and trailrunning in the Dahlonega area are much more pervasive than those for mountain biking.  The Appalachian Trail starts just west of town near Spring Mountain and runs across the map north of town and continues northeast through the state. In addition, the Benton-Mackaye trail also begins near Springer Mountain and runs almost due north from there.  In addition to those two famous trails, there is a plethora of hiking-only trails in nearby state parks, wilderness areas, and just out in the National Forest north of Dahlonega. I really don't know how many hundreds of miles of trails there are to be hiked or run in the area, but the system is immense!

Some of the best scenery and most beautiful forests in the area are accessible only by foot. Even if you are a die-hard mountain biker and don't generally enjoy walking anywhere (like myself), I still recommend that you get off your bike at least once in a while and check out the other areas accessed by foot.

Popular day hikes near Dahlonega include Blood Mountain (pictured here), the looped trails near the Springer Mountain trailhead (the southern terminus of the A.T.), and Amicalola Falls State Park.

Check out this map for more info: National Geographic Trails Illustrated #777,  or buy it here.

The Forest
A rainy day on the Appalachian Trail

This Just In: Dahlonega Has Been Named an Official "Appalachian Trail Community"

According to this week's edition of the local newspaper, The Dahlonega Nugget, Dahlonega has just been named an official Appalachian Trail community. According to the article, this is a rather high honor which is bestowed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the volunteer organization "dedicated to the preservation and management of the natural, scenic, historic, and cultural resources associated with the A.T." Dahlonega is "only the fifth city/county to receive the designation" anywhere along the entire 2,180 length of this behemoth of a trail. (Hall 10A)

If you needed any more evidence in order to be assured of the hiking/backpacking culture of Dahlonega, this should hopefully satisfy your need!


I could drone on and on about the immensity of the foot-travel-only trail network and the beauty of the area, but I thought that it might be better to just post some pictures that I've personally taken while hiking in the area:

A Fall Hike up Blood Mountain
Blood Mountain, a part of the Appalachian Trail
View from the top of Blood Mountain

The AT
Much of the top of Blood Mountain is granite slickrock
Mountain flower
Mountain Laurel in bloom on the Benton Mackaye Trail
Just off the Appalachian Trail
A rainy summer day in the forest
Amicalola Falls
Benton MacKaye
The Benton MacKaye Trail
View of the Mountains
Overlook just off the Benton MacKaye


Christopher December 3, 2010 at 2:21 PM  

Such beautiful terrain. It's really too bad mountain bikers aren't alowed. What are the penalties for riding these foot only trails?

Greg Heil December 4, 2010 at 7:42 AM  

I agree with you dude, I've often thought about how great these would be to ride. Some sections of these trails would be absolutely perfect for bikes!

I'm not totally sure what the penalties would be, but these people are serious about the A.T. I imagine it would be pretty harsh!

Jeremy (GoldenGoose),  December 4, 2010 at 4:34 PM  

I remember one of the hiking sites I have subscribed to mentioning it was a misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $500.00 fine and possible 6 months in jail. The guy even had the specific law code chapter and section linked describing the penalties. But now I can't find the specific link though. :(

Greg Heil December 4, 2010 at 11:02 PM  

I remember reading an article in Bike Mag a couple years ago that mentioned in passing a rumor about a couple of mountain bikers that had dropped in and ridden the trails down into the Grand Canyon. According to what "he said she said," they got a helicopter ride to jail and their multi-thousand dollar bikes confiscated and never returned.

Jeremy (GoldenGoose),  December 5, 2010 at 11:50 AM  


I believe this is what you were referring to. This the guys from "Riding the Spine".

Important parts below:

"You can get in very serious trouble for violating the National Park Regulations. In 1995, 5 cyclists from Sedona got caught red-handed riding their bikes down the North Kaibab Trail. They were apprehended, searched and found to have marijuana and illegal mushrooms. A helicopter evacuated them out of the park and they had to pay 240 dollars for the helicopter ride. This made national headlines. With a plea bargain, they got the drug charges dropped and a 250 dollar fine was suspended. They were forced to give up their bicycles, which are said to still be down in the ranger’s station on rollers.

The Riding the Spine team was also caught riding their bikes in the canyon, and camping without a permit (Class B Misdemeanors). Two undercover federal agents followed us to the 24 Hours in Old Pueblo race to serve us a summons. We are required to donate $500 dollars to Grand Canyon Search & Rescue Fund, spend 2 days in jail, we will have 5 years of unsupervised probation, and we will be banned from all National Parks for 5 years as well.

During the 5 year probationary period we are not allowed to use any images or descriptions of biking/camping in the Grand Canyon on any internet site magazine, newspaper, or any other publication. We were required to withdraw all photographs, video footage and journal entries about riding our bikes/camping in the canyon. Furthermore, we have to publish this entry on our site describing the penalties that we incurred, as well as conveying the ethics and reasons why cycling in areas such as the Grand Canyon/wilderness areas is prohibited. The judge was also real keen on having us take a picture in front of the court and post it somewhere on the website."

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